Updated: Mar 10
I was a heavy smoker for many years. By 'heavy', I mean between one and two packs a day. In 2014 I decided to switch to electronic cigarettes. The logic was unavoidable:
They don't contain the hundreds of carcinogens cigarettes do
They cost a lot less
They are much more socially acceptable
I've been merrily using electronic cigarettes now for 6 years, feel infinitely healthier and have saved a fortune. Social acceptability isn't what it once was, but it's still far more tolerated than smoking.
In this post I'll try to describe the law around vaping in Mexico and my experiences finding consumables. I'm not interested in debating the pros and cons of the health implications. For me it's a straightforward question of harm reduction - if your view differs, I respectfully disagree 😉
As the old saying goes: I Am Not A Lawyer! This is my interpretation and experience. Proceed at your own risk.
UPDATE: In February 2020, the Mexican President issued a decree banning the import of vape products. It remains to be seen how this will affect vapers in reality. I'll update this page when this becomes clearer. Alternatively, keep an eye on the Pro-Vapeo vaping advocacy group for their response. Take this into account when reading the rest of this article.
The Law On Vaping In Mexico
OK, so first of all: is vaping legal in Mexico or not?
There is, unfortunately, no simple 'yes' or 'no' answer to this question. There is no specific legislation in Mexico covering vaping and vape products. Such law as is applicable comes from Section 16/VI of the "General Law On Tobacco Control":
It is Prohibited To:
VI. Trade, sell, distribute, display, promote or produce any object that is not a tobacco product which contains some of the brand elements or any type of design or auditory sign that identifies it with tobacco products.
In other words: in Mexico, vaping is covered by the law designed to cover candy cigarettes. It may be hard for younger readers to believe, but when I was young you could buy pretend cigarettes made out of sugar or gum. They were sold in packs and even had red dye at one end to look like they were lit!
Many countries ban them as a cynical ploy by tobacco companies to ensnare children into the habit. I've no idea why 🤔
Mexican vape laws are complicated. Additionally, the Mexican Supreme Court has ruled that the current ban on vaping sales is unconstitutional.
The bottom line is this: it's technically illegal to sell vaping fluid, cartridges, and accessories in Mexico, or to import the same for trade purposes. In the unlikely event that anyone was ever taken to court, their first action would be to point to the Supreme Court judgement and ask for the case to be dismissed.
It is not illegal to possess or use them. I can't find an authoritative reference, but it's almost certainly illegal to import for personal use - ie, on the plane/in the car - but see above re any potential court action.
Every forum and board I've looked at suggests border staff aren't interested. I haven't seen anyone report that they had their vaping equipment confiscated, or in any other way bothered. A few people reported being asked what they were; when they explained they were waved on their way.
So, in summary:
It's illegal to sell vape juice, mods, cartridges and vaping accessories
You can legally vape in Mexico
It's (probably) legal to buy them
It's (probably) illegal to bring them into the country
It's very unlikely you've have problems if you bring a small amount for personal use
On The Ground
OK, so you're in Mexico having passed through customs with a few spare cartridges and some juice. Despite feeling like Interpol's Most Wanted. What's the situation once you get here?
First of all, it's rare to see people vaping. Most of those are tourists; but yes, there are Mexicans vaping. Most people seem to use the ostentatious, billowing, huge clouds variety - it's not as if they're in any way inconspicuous. (I personally use the older, eGO stick pens which are much more discrete.)
No-one pays any attention. Mexico is a pretty tolerant place, and people tend to mind their own business. As long as you're not vaping in a bar or restaurant, or gassing out an entire bus stop, it's unlikely anyone will even look askance at you. (Basically - don't be a dick.)
I did attract some attention from an American stoner in a mezcaleria in Cabo San Lucas. It turned out he thought I was vaping weed. Specifically because it's discrete, people often use the pen type vape to smoke THC fluid.
So I guess it's possible you may get this reaction - just be prepared to explain if you need to. ("Es solo nicotina, no marihuana.")
So - it's illegal, and therefore hard to get hold of supplies, right? Wrong.
Vaping In Mexico: Mexico City
Our first stop in Mexico was Mexico City, right in the centro. After a couple of days I did a quick search for 'vape shop Mexico' on Google maps. (Mexico is used by Mexicans to refer to both the city and the country - a bit like New York refers to the city and the state). There were about 16 hits within a few blocks of our Airbnb. Go figure.
We were only there for a week, and as I was well-supplied having just arrived in the country, I didn't need to seek any out.
My bet is that you won't have any problem finding one, in centro for sure.
Vaping In Mexico: La Paz
La Paz out in Baja California Sur is a much smaller place than CDMX. So I was a little worried about availability. There are a few places which show up with online searching, but they're a bit more discrete.
One head shop I visited, Madriganja, did sometimes sell vaping gear, but said they'd been visited by the federales to remind them that it was technically illegal. They were apparently very polite and took no further action. The owner shrugged and just said, "Mexico!"
This despite the fact that the shop was selling bongs, chillums, pipes, papers, and had a couple of happy old stoners sitting outside shooting (and smoking) the shit.
"Vaping - Mexico is more trouble than smoking marijuana, si?"
The second place I tried, Baja Vapers, was out of the way in a residential area. I actually walked twice round the block looking for the address, until a local asked if he could help. When I said I was looking for the vape shop, he pointed to a door. I walked into what looked like someone's front room, adapted into a very serviceable retail outlet 😮
They had a good range of vape flavours and strengths, Mainly high VG (those big billowing clouds again), and mainly lower strengths (3/6/9mg). I'm used to 12mg or 18mg; they had no 18mg, but a couple of 12mg.
Message them on Facebook, they're pretty responsive. There are no markings on the front of the property, so double-check with them for directions and address.
Friendly staff and a good range of stock. I spoke Spanish but I think they speak some English too.
The third place I found was La Vaporera; again, discretely located by a main road. I walked past a couple of times until a man across the road waved at me.
"Ah", I thought, "I'm once again rocking my 'Gringo looking lost with Google maps' look!"
I crossed the road to his stall, he asked me if I was looking for the vaping shop. "Si!", I replied. He then walked me back across the road to where the shopkeeper was now waiting.
(This kind of interaction happens all the time in Mexico, in my experience to date. People are genuinely helpful to strangers in a way you just don't see back in the UK. But I digress...)
It's a little place behind a mirrored-glass sliding door. Again, a fairly small selection of wares, but the basics - batteries, fluid, even a few eGO cartridges. Owner speaks English.
Vaping In Mexico: Guadalajara
I haven't been in Guadalajara very long yet, but I have stopped off at one of the vape stores to get some fluid, and see if I could get some eGO cartridges.
Lord Vape is easily the best and most professional vape shop I've seen so far in Mexico.
They stock a huge range of flavours, strengths and brands. They'll happily grade your juice to the right nicotine level for you. In addition, they sell vape mods, coils and vaping starter kits.
They don't sell eGO cartridges or batteries; these seem pretty rare and hard to find in Mexico.
The staff were super friendly and very helpful, with excellent English.
I'll add more info and stores as I come across them. If you'd like to suggest anything to add or amend, please message me!
Vaping In Mexico: Summary
The position is complicated. Selling vaping kit is illegal, but it's very easy to find. Vaping is legal, and many Mexicans indulge. Vape shops in Mexico are, if not everywhere, certainly not uncommon.
There's a vaping advocacy group which is fighting to change the law; the law has already been declared unconstitutional.
But this is Mexico. The Supreme Court has also ruled (in 2018 - for the fifth time!) that banning recreational use of marijuana is unconstitutional, and directed the government to legislate to that effect. As of February 2020, nothing has changed. So I wouldn't expect the law on vaping to change any time soon.
Bringing your vape kit into the country is likely illegal, but unlikely to cause you any problems. I'd suggest keeping it on your person and/or carry-on luggage.
Finally, once again: this post is based on my personal experience and my own understanding of the law in Mexico. IANAL!
Do your research and make your own informed decision.
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